Asked by SPEED SPORT if he felt Thursday’s run was indicative of the potential he saw in the organization when he signed with them for the 2020 season, Stenhouse offered a quick affirmative.
“Looking at the equipment that they have here, the people, the parts and pieces, the Hendrick power, the new Chevy Camaro body – I feel like those were all really good things to put together. Bringing my crew chief Brian Pattie over, bringing Mike Kelley over, with a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience to work in, they jumped right in,” he noted. “I felt like they’ve been working with these guys for a long time and it’s only been a short amount of time. So, I feel like we are definitely capable of running in the top-ten. I feel like last night was definitely a night that we hit it right.
“We had a really good car and I hope we can continue to run top-five and contend for wins, but I definitely feel like we can run top 10 with everything that we have right here,” Stenhouse continued. “We have to do that – we have to limit my mistakes, limit the issues that we’ve had and just have good, smooth, solid nights, and I think we can run top 10 (regularly).”
Stenhouse was also quick to point out that he knew going in that he had the tools at his disposal to be successful with JTG-Daugherty. His struggle has been consistently harnessing that speed.
“The frustrating part is that I just need to get more consistent, not make those mistakes and not give people reasons to run their mouth. But it’s all part of it,” Stenhouse noted. “Those are the things you have to take with the sport. Anytime you have a lot of fans watching and definitely fans of different teams, you’ll have people run their mouth. But you just have to stick to what you know, stick to your team, know that you bring your friends with you to the race track, and know they’re the ones around you supporting you. Honestly, I think that’s one thing that I get out of working out so hard – it doesn’t just physically prepare you for the race, but mentally just keeps you focused on what you need to focus on. I know for me, I definitely need to get more consistent.
“I look back at my years in the Xfinity Series and remember that it didn’t start off great, but when our cars were right, I felt like I was able to do a lot with them, be more consistent, contend for wins, win and run up front,” he added. “If we keep having cars like we had last night, I feel like I can make less mistakes, but also be aggressive and still get a lot out of the race car, and try and keep those haters off the internet as much as possible.”
The best news for Stenhouse is that he’s heading to one of his best race tracks at the Cup level this weekend in Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, where he’s been in the mix among the top-five multiple times and is a two-time runner up.
Could Sunday be the day it all comes together?
“I feel really good,” Stenhouse said in regards to Bristol. “I know (Chris) Buescher … when he was here (at JTG), they had some really good runs at Bristol. Our setups, looking at what we normally run versus what they ran here, are pretty similar. So, I feel good about that.
“The feel that I have in this race car I feel like is better than really any of the feel that I had in my Cup cars over my career so far. I felt like last night was a car that kind of reminded me of when I raced the Xfinity Series on the 1.5-mile tracks – I could kind of put my car where I wanted to and it did a lot of the things that I was asking it to do. So, I’m looking forward to getting that to Bristol knowing that we’ve had good runs there.
“We’ve had chances to win there before, and it would be nice to be able to get up and go lead some laps and contend for a win there (this weekend) as well.”